Friday, November 23, 2007

Morning has broken. The break of day. Daybreak. The crack of dawn.

Such noisy and explosive terminology for the beginning of a new day - sounding rather more like the demolition of something than the beginning. I wonder why we speak of mornings in this way? Morning is such a soft time; the light coming on so slowly that at first dawn could be mistaken for nebulous starlight or a fullish moon behind cloud cover that sheds an indirect glow, almost as if the atmosphere itself were the source of light. The soft, tender light of a new day slides over the earth and slips between trees and buildings. By the time the sun itself is visible, most of the world is awake.

I suppose for most of us, morning is a time of greatly increased stress. Many dread another day at a meaningless job, or dealing with kids and too-busy schedules and all of the things they didn't accomplish yesterday that they should have. People say: I'm not a morning person and we know what they mean: they are grumpy, half-conscious, not quite "with it." They usually want to be left alone - needing time to adjust, to shake off that dreamy state of unconsciousness so they can cope with the day to come. And so many are trying to get through the week on too little sleep, only to be jolted awake by all manner of horrific means: obnoxious beeping of electronic devices, the shrill clamoring of a traditional alarm clock, ringing phones or someone yelling at them: get up !! get up!! It's no wonder people dread mornings, and just endure; living for the weekend.

Like most, I spent many, many years having to be somewhere early, following a work day schedule of 9 to 5 or 7 to 4 or even 7 to 7. All the while I worked at these jobs I wanted to be doing something else. I often felt cheated out of my time, my days - in a way - cheated out of my life. I wanted to be making art, not just making a living. To try and make up for my lost time, I would work on art projects and paintings at night, most often staying up too late to catch more than five or six hours of sleep. My candle burned at both ends and I watched my life melting away. I felt entitled to do this, that I must do this, to take and have control of any time not spent on the job. With all those mistaken adages about successful people needing only a few hours sleep, I always assumed I would eventually adjust.

Needless to say, I was not a morning person. Some of the time I felt I was not a person at all, just a zombie, sleepwalking through life...

In 1997 I gave my two weeks notice and went out on my own as a freelance artist. It hasn't been easy, but it has been a decade of discovery. One of the things I learned is that I am a morning person! I enjoy the quiet just before sunrise that gradually gives way to the sounds of birds and squirrels and light traffic, the cool temperatures, the mist along the valley, the changing light and the wonderful taste of coffee. (I had apple pie for breakfast this morning!) I love the morning because it is mine. And now I believe that anyone can be a morning person, given the right circumstances: enough sleep (eight hours for me); a bit of preparation the night before (automatic coffeemaker, clothes laid out, tools and equipment ready)... But most important of all it is the knowledge that the day is mine - the whole day, all 24 hours, to arrange and schedule and do what I do best - that makes my mornings so sweet. It's not earthshaking news to most people, but to someone stubborn like me, it was a lesson learned rather late in life that certain aspects of our lives and some of our individual needs are to be accepted. There is just no point in going through life being resentful - or doing battle with ourselves.

If we could all awaken at our leisure, or at least unencumbered by the manacles of civilization and society that are imposed upon us, how would we spend our days? If we could all spend our days living - doing what we loved - how would we awake in the morning?

Bon matin.

Begin at once to live, and count each day as a separate life. - Seneca

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